Just Switch The Controller On, Hollywood!

This isn’t a story just a minor rant. So say I, a film lover, goes to the Pictures (Cinemas for non-Brits) to see the latest hit that’s raking in millions. And it has to rake in millions because the budget spent was also in the millions. I’m sat there and I’m in the world on the screen. I’m engrossed, even the bored sprog previously kicking my seat is silent and along for the ride. The film cuts to a kid on a couch with a PS4 controller in his hand and……the controller isn’t on.

To most people that wouldn’t be an issue. Most viewers wouldn’t know if that controller was on or not. Never mind the erratic button bashing and weird hand composure the kid is utilising, he could just be a bad gamer.  However, there is no excuse for the controller to not even be switched on! The director or producer has consultants and experts readily available on set. You have millions in funding and months of pre-planning and production meetings. You have hundreds and thousands of staff on hand, some of which will be avid gamers. The controller was bought for the film! Read the manual! Slap a blue sticker on it! Put some effort into it, maybe!

Gaming isn’t a niche, nerdy hobby any more. According to a recent US study (Linky Link), around half the US population has a console at home. It’s inexcusable for the production team to think that nobody would notice if the controller is on or off. I’ll accept it on adult entertainment, if you get my meaning. Because, that doesn’t make sense usually. Girl orders pizza, driver arrives with pizza, the driver and her go upstairs and they let the pizza go cold. Yeah, OK! In reality: demolish half that pizza first, then sexy saxophone time and lastly have cold refreshing pizza. On a big budget film though, all you do is ruin my immersion with laziness. Small details create a believable universe. It’s why in John Wick, when he runs out of ammo or counts his bullets, those details are hailed by film fans and respected. Unfortunately this isn’t a new thing, I remember seeing films where kids were playing on Gameboy’s without a cartridge. This is also something that will not go away immediately. It’s not even a big deal but it’s something so small and minor that it is easily fixable in films. It’s how I imagine an expert in their field feels watching a film scene, involving their expertise. A doctor for example, baffled by bad medicine terminology. It is something that can easily be researched or consulted on.

But, as I’ve said, it’s not a major detail. I don’t switch off the film if I see it happen but when I do see it, that is all I see for several seconds. It’s distracting and in this day of internet access, there is no excuse for authenticity for something as common as a PS4 controller or gaming device. Hollywood if you read this and I’m sure you will. I’ll be your gaming consultant! Or I’ll print out thousands of blue stickers for you. I only cost 1 Squidillion dollars an hour. Give me a call sometime!

Overwatch Endorsement System: Is Fake Kindness A Bad Thing?

Overwatch is a game that I play a lot, generally at least an hour every other day. I’m a console pleb with a mediocre laptop so I can’t speak for the PC Overwatch community. This view is merely from a PS4 position so take that with a grain of ‘this guy doesn’t know it all’.  Overwatch, for those that don’t know, has a basic communication wheel in game. You press some buttons and your character and a little text prompt, for your team to see, will pop up and say ‘Thanks’, ‘Hello’, ‘Understood’, ‘Group up’, ‘My ultimate is (number)% ready’ and the infamous ‘I need healing’. Basic but it can get the job done. Of course you can use mic’s but if you’re like me, a bit shy and you can’t be bothered to listen to background trashy music or mic technical issues then this communication wheel is all you need.

When put to good use, a team of strangers can co-ordinate a winning move! Or in the hands of a sore loser, can be a minor annoyance. Similar to Rocket Leagues spamming of ‘What a save!’ ‘What a save!’ ‘What a save!’, when a bad player blames others for his death, a torrent of ‘Thanks’ starts appearing on screen. Like a persistent moth batting against a light bulb. It’s not a big deal but it’s damn distracting. Constant inputs incur a couple of seconds ban which helps the droning of suicidal Genji’s but the next death usually brings on another tirade of blame. It is an issue that since launch I’ve got use to but never over. Like a mild rash, without the satisfying itch. Then arrives the endorsement system.

Endorsement

The endorsement system is a simple feature that was added to Overwatch. At the end of a quick play or competitive match you are given the chance to praise your teammates or  a respected enemy. These praises are ‘Shot Caller’, ‘Good Teammate’ and ‘Sportsmanship’. You can only give out 3 endorsements per game. As, you receive endorsements you receive rewards. Or that is my understanding anyway. The system has only been out for a short time and I’m only at a level 2 endorsement level. So far though, I haven’t been showered with gifts or whatever the reward scheme is. Nevertheless, I’ve noticed a sharp decrease in message spamming. I still see ‘I need healing’ and ‘Thanks’ pop up a lot but not as much as I did before the new system.  A lot more ‘Understood’ and ‘Group up’s have been rearing their pretty heads. Much to my joy. A team that communicates in a team based game? Hold on, we may be onto victory here. It’s a nice surprise and I’m sure Blizzard was hoping that this new system they’ve introduced to their game would quell a vocal minority. You can’t shut up everyone that’s unpleasant but a start is always welcome.

This new niceness has raised the question though: is it all fake? To be honest, yes some of it is. But why care? Negativity in a team game can quickly spread. One person spams ‘Thanks’ on death and then after the 3rd time this repeats, someone spams ‘Group up’ back at them. Then a 3rd player may join in on that and then suddenly half the team is bitter and eagerly awaiting the match to end so they can find a new team. It creates a bad aura that brings the energy plummeting in matches. I know because I’ve spammed ‘Group up’ before. I shouldn’t have as that makes me no better, I’m still causing distractions and providing no useful or tactical information. And so, if Player A is seething with rage in a match of Overwatch, yet he chooses to say ‘Thanks’ when healed and ‘Group up’ and actually does it, is that a bad thing? Would you rather he is honest and let his emotions unleash on ‘Thanks’, or would you prefer he plays nice for brownie points? I would rather choose a positive atmosphere to my matches than an honest moan session. I’m British, I love a good moan but not in a team game. Fake kindness wins over unpleasantness any time for me. Not only that but positive reinforcement is always better than negative reinforcement. If the nasty player sees that their pleasant disposition leads to more victories, they are more likely to continue that act.  Combine that with the fact that habits grow the more they are repeated, which means that subconsciously this nice behaviour could stick to the individual, naturally.

It’s almost like a paradox. Is a player a good teammate, if they are secretly a bitter Overwatch player that keeps their whining to their self and is courteous in game for fake badges? I think if it leads to a better gaming experience for everyone in game then cheap tricks are fine by me.

My Top 5 Games of 2017

Ignore the date! It is NOT late March and therefore this article is NOT long overdue.

5. Puyo Puyo Tetris

Puyo Puyo logo

I’m actually surprised this is in my top 5, but looking back over all the games I played of 2017, this one I’ve kept coming back to. Puzzle games aren’t even a genre that I have much love for compared to others but Puyo Puyo Tetris is just so easy to love. Tetris is universal, I don’t need to explain that as anyone having an interest in gaming and reading this knows how Tetris works. Puyo Puyo is something I’d never played before and when I got the game I figured I would just play the Tetris modes and that’s it. Puyo Puyo is similar to popular Facebook and mobile phone games. You have colours, you line the colours up and score points and clear space. Setting off a chain reaction of disappearing Puyo’s will grant more points and space as well as obstacles for your opponents.

The game does a great job of explaining the gameplay mechanics of both modes and it’s Frankenstein of a mode where they merge the two. What follows is a simple concept but hard to master package that has a mode for everyone. The chaos that ensues when four people play against each is hilarious especially with modes like Swap, where each player has to play Tetris for a set time and then swap to their own Puyo Puyo game and the pattern continues until a victor remains. A great game with a lot of replay value and perfect game for a Nintendo Switch as the portability is a huge bonus.

4. Stardew Valley

Stardew valley

I own this on 3 platforms. I’ve put over 100 hours across all 3 and yet I still haven’t finished a single playthrough. It’s one of those games that I’m sure everyone has experienced. You start it, you play it for hours a day, you spend dozens of hours getting the result you want and rather than finish your current run, you decide to start again. Not due to boredom or unhappiness with your current run. But due to that simplicity and addictive nature of the beginning of the game. The thing that enraptured you in the first place.

Achieving an ideal farm and a peak routine that yield’s the most profit and productivity is fun. It’s great fun and very therapeutic. On the other hand, a simple basic farm has my pitiful mind brimming with potential. Do I focus on animals? How should I organise my crops? Do I want a cat or dog on my farm? How do I improve on what I did previously? There is so much choice in this game that I think I’ll be playing it for another 5 years before I finish a run. And I am completely okay with that.

For more on how I feel about Stardew Valley and a more in depth look at an average 20 minutes on the game, feel free to check out a feature I wrote a while back. Here is the shill….I mean, link! Shill

3. Mario Odyssey

mario

This is a fun game! It gives me a warm, happy feeling when I play it. I know that sounds all touchy and overly sentimental for a game but it’s the truth. Mario games in the main series have always held that power over me but Mario Odyssey might be one of the prime examples. Everyone and their gran knows what Mario is and how it plays so I’m not going to explain that.

Mario Odyssey has what makes a video game a classic. It’s beautifully colourful, has fluid gameplay, an amazing soundtrack and has many moments that planted the stupidest smile on my face. This game is a stand out in Mario’s long history. From the beginning to the end of this adventure, humour and nostalgia are injected into every corner of this game. Nintendo set out to make the most fun and Mario filled Mario game and I believe they done that spectacularly. Sheer fun on a cartridge.

2. Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath-of-the-Wild

Breath of the Wild has spoilt me. Why can’t I climb all mountains in all other open world games? I’ll be the first to admit that I have an issue with open world games. There is usually too much to do and the world in question is a lot of the time, devoid of personality or enough personality to fill its scale. Breath of the Wild laughs at that problem. I loved exploring this world. There is so much to find and see that I never tired of climbing mountains. Not only is Hyrule a treat to traverse but the actual traversal mechanics are a delight to play.

This Zelda is a tricky one to place. It’s number 2 on my list and I believe it deserves that spot. Saying that though, it’s one of the weakest 3D Zelda games in my eyes. I always loved Zelda’s dungeons and bosses and this game lacks in that area severely. On the other hand though, it still deserves the number 2 spot and is still the best realised open world game I’ve played. I think this is an amazing game and an amazing series. Even when Zelda is at its weakest it is still head and shoulders above most of the video game industry. So even though I just said this is a weak entry in the series, I still recommend buying this game 100%. A superb game.

My game of the year is………..

1. Persona 5

Persona 5

For me this was the clear winner. I loved the others on this list and when I wrote down my preliminary top 10, Persona 5 was placed at number 1 and it stayed there. Others I swapped and ummed and ahhed about but not Persona 5. That speaks volume to me and hopefully to you about how I feel about this game. This was a stellar year in gaming but this quirky high school sim/JRPG/heist game takes the grand prize.

I’m not a stranger to the Persona series or even the Shin Megami Tensei series. I remember buying Persona 4 for £10 for my PS2 back when PS2 games were no longer the key market. The next gen had come along but I saw this strange game with these fantastic reviews and gave it a go. My mind was blown. It is still my high point for JRPG’s, a genre that I’m not the most proficient in besides the odd Final Fantasy game.The Persona series is like no other series I’ve played. It’s tone and weird nature are enveloped by solid characters, unique storyline’s and a combat system that I care for with a passion. It’s essentially Final Fantasy turn based combat with Pokemon chucked in. There are so many aspects of this game that I could write paragraphs about.

In the end though, it’s style that is all over this game that I love immensely and the reason it is my number 1 of 2017. The look, the music, the character and Persona design. Even the menu screen is a joy to view. It has pizzazz all over the place and it’s not a style over substance game. The world and the characters that fill the world are rich in detail and care. Every aspect of this game took time and consideration. If you haven’t played or seen footage of this masterpiece then please go on YouTube and have a look. Just at the menu screen or the end screen of a battle. To me the end screen of a generic battle is a classic. It’s up there with the Final Fantasy victory fanfare (the one that you just sang to yourself). That is only a small detail of this game but that flare and flourish is cascading through this game.

There is nothing else like it at the moment in my opinion besides other iterations. Persona 6 can’t come soon enough but I’ll gladly accept Shin Megami Tensei on the Switch till then.